Posted by kirstyes
I’m delighted to host a guest post from debut author Finbar Hawkins about his publishing journey for Witch. This is a powerful tale of revenge, grief and sisterhood and is perfect for Halloween week. Later in the week I’ll share my full review but for now I’ll hand over to Finbar.
My Publishing Journey
I’ve always written, but even with seeing ‘Witch’ out on the shelves, I still have difficulty describing myself as a writer. It’s not so much self-doubt, I think it more springs from each new thing you write feels like starting again, finding out how to write again. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over the feeling, and to be honest I feel it’s a good spur, a jab of the heels to keep me coming back to the blank page.
My route to publishing started with the Arvon Foundation. I had never experienced a writing workshop before, working on exercises to approach character, setting and emotion. The writing samples I brought with me were little short film ideas, so I wasn’t even writing prose at that time. But it was through a number of exercises in class, under our tutor Lucy Christopher’s guidance, that the beginnings of a story emerged, and I kept going through that amazing week and into the months beyond. Lucy is a lecturer at Bath Spa (now the Course Director!) and she had encouraged me (along with a number of my Arvon compadres) to apply. Through early morning starts before children were awake and work, the story that I started had now grown into approximately 30k. But I craved feedback, more of what I had experienced at Arvon – critical feedback from other writers.
I was delighted to get a place on Bath Spa, because over those two years part-time I started to write properly around critical workshops. And the thing is about workshops is that you have to raise your game – you’re delivering to a little audience, and you’re going to be hearing other people’s work, giving your own thoughts on it. I also learnt that giving a critique is just as important for writing, because you’re looking at the craft all the time, your training that writing muscle.
I decided to park the ms I had been working on since Arvon because in that first term, Witch came bowling along and demanded to be told. The workshop was integral again, because I had a very good set of notes from a group of other writers – who wanted to know what happened next. I was immensely interested also in the challenge of writing from a young woman’s perspective.
The core of the MA is about working on and delivering your ms, and from there we all then work on putting together an Anthology to showcase our work for a launch event in London. Agents and editors are invited along to this terrifying and exhilarating evening. There I met Catherine Pellegrino of Marjacq Scripts who had read and liked my anthology extract.
I knew Catherine was the agent for me, because she pushed me to make the ms as good as it possibly could be. So we set to work, and over several drafts pushed and pulled Witch into submission shape. I would stress that there is no real time frame for this, and you shouldn’t feel rushed. Let the ms ‘bake’ in between drafts, write other bits and pieces and then go through it taking notes. It will all be much the better for it.
Finally we both felt that Witch was ready to fly. And at the end of an excruciating week waiting to hear back from editors, it was Fiona Kennedy at Zephyr who from the outset pretty much demanded my book should be published by her. There were other others in the frame, but because of Fiona’s incredible passion for Witch, I knew I had found the right home.
My publishing journey has all been about some fundamental things – you need to take that first jump and put your writing in front of a critical audience (it’s hard, but you’ll get used to it); you need to trust your instincts when meeting agents and editors; you need to take your time; and you need to remember to enjoy it!
WITCH by Finbar Hawkins is out now in hardback (£12.99, Zephyr, an imprint of Head of Zeus)
Follow Finbar Hawkins @finbar_hawkins and find out more finbarhawkins.com
I’m not going to lie I’ve been eyeing up both the Arvon Foundation courses and the Bath Spa MA for years and like Evey’s jealously of sister Dill I must try and keep my green eyed monster in check. Maybe one day!
Huge Congratulations to Finbar on a wonderful debut. Come back on Wednesday for my full review and do check out the rest of the posts on the tour running this week.